(Sergei Belski – USA Today Sports)
The Florida Panthers came into the Scotiabank Saddledome as one of the hottest clubs in the National Hockey League, having just seen their 12-game winning streak snapped by the Vancouver Canucks. But rather than look at the Calgary Flames as potential slump-busters or the beginning of a new streak, by the end of the first period the Panthers looked downright terrified of the Flames and ready to go home.
Calgary looked like an unstoppable force tonight, handily beating the Panthers by a 6-0 score in the final game of their current home-stand.
The Flames started off with perhaps their best first period of the season. 56 seconds into the fray, Jiri Hudler corralled the puck after a chaotic zone entry, and then found Sam Bennett just outside the slot for a nice one-timer goal past Roberto Luongo to make it 1-0. Five minutes later, they doubled their lead off a slick Sean Monahan zone entry; Monahan entered the zone with numbers and set up Johnny Gaudreau for a scoring chance. Jonathan Huberdeau blocked a cross-crease pass to Bennett…right back to Gaudreau, who beat Luongo to make it 2-0.
The lead was extended further off a Mikael Backlund foray into the zone, where he handed it off to Bennett for a dangle and a quick shot that beat Luongo to make it 3-0. Florida pushed back a bit after getting down by three, hemming the Flames in for several minutes. But once again, the Flames broke through. This time Deryk Engelland collected an errant pass and went to the net. Luongo made the initial save, but Engelland shuffled the rebound to Bennett, who shelved the puck for his third goal (on four shots) in the period and a 4-0 lead. Shots were 15-5 and attempts 20-13, both for Calgary, in the opening frame.
The second was a bit looser early-on but Flames quickly reeled it in and turned on their defensive game. It was kind of a sleepy period with Flames trying their best to limit Florida’s chances and keep their attackers to the outside. Just when it looked like the period would be completely uneventful, the Flames extended their lead to 5-0 off a head’s up play: Mark Giordano dumped the puck in and Al Montoya (who replaced Luongo to start the period) went out to play it. David Jones collected puck on the side boards and threw it to the front of the net, where a streaking Mason Raymond tipped it in. Shots were 10-4 Calgary in the second, while shot attempts were even at 16-16. (Yes, the Flames were that good at containing Florida.)
The final frame greatly resembled the second, in the sense that the Panthers pressed and couldn’t generate very much and the Flames seemed perfectly content to box out the Panthers and play dump and chase. But once again when it looked like there would be no offense to speak of, Jiri Hudler picked off an errant clearing pass, sent it across the zone to Bennett and a nice deke around Alex Petrovic later, it was 6-0 (and a four-goal game for the rookie sensation). Shots were 11-6 for the Flames, while attempts were 20-20. (Again, Florida kept to the outside quite a bit.)
WHY THE FLAMES WON
The Flames came out hell-bent on winning the first period against a team that’s dying to head home after a long road trip. They did so, and then didn’t give the Panthers very much the rest of the way. It was a mature, confident 60 minutes of hockey. They took their foot off the gas after the first period, but they certainty played like they were aware of where the puck was – a big departure from some of their previous games that inspired comebacks by the opposition.
Sam-sational. ? pic.twitter.com/R4l2c21pGh
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 14, 2016
Bennett was superb, with the first four-goal performance since Jarome Iginla’s in February 2003, but the rest of the team was also full marks. All four lines generated chances in the first period, and none of the four lines were especially soft on the opposition.
And after how rough his outings were early in the season, it’s kind of nice to see Jonas Hiller get a shutout – if only because he’s been sitting and watching Karri Ramo play for the better part of the last two and a half months.
“This game is a total team win. Great performance. Like I said, we played very well in the three zones, we competed. Our discipline has been real good lately. Many, many positives and at the same time, I’m happy for Hills. Big performance, he came up with some key saves in the third period to keep the shutout. Everyone deserves lots of credit.”
-Flames head coach Bob Hartley assesses his team’s performance in their 6-0 win.
“We just said ‘keep playing the same way, don’t give them a sniff.’ They’re a really skilled team, so we knew if we gave them something they would get some energy. As I said, they have some high-skilled players that can make plays, so it was very important that we took care of our own end.”
-Flames center Mikael Backlund on the team’s approach to the second and third periods.
The Flames hit the road now for a five-game trek that spans Edmonton, New Jersey, Columbus, Carolina and Dallas. The trip kicks off on Saturday night up in Shelbyville when they face the Oilers.